The week of February 27 to March 3 is the inaugural Socioeconomic Inclusion (SEI) Week. HBS will be participating in events that highlight and celebrate socioeconomic diversity and inclusion on campus. This week is a powerful reminder of the value of diverse perspectives and the need for greater equity and inclusion in business and society.

Here, current HBS students share their personal stories about what being first-generation, low-income (FGLI) means to them through a storyboard series organized by Student Association in collaboration with Asian Affinity Business Association (AABA), African American Student Union (AASU), First-Gen Club, Latino Student Organization (LASO), and PRIDE.


Sami Pal, Class of 2023

Being FGLI has been a blessing in disguise. While it meant that no white-collar job was paved for me, my father’s greatest gifts to me – his initiative and hard work – set an example that I sought to emulate. It allowed me to find my own path, seek mentors, and afforded me opportunities due to that relentless grit for financial security. I am lucky and privileged to be at HBS but can also relate to those who, despite having these same qualities, aren’t in school due to circumstances out of their control.

I am grateful to represent my family and friends at HBS. I view it as my responsibility to imbibe learnings in business school and teach them to my loved ones. As a leader, I hope to support and encourage students from diverse socioeconomic backgrounds to follow their dreams and make a positive difference in the world.

Kareem Stanley, Class of 2024

In my experience, FGLI is equivalent to thoughtfulness. I noted that I had to be more thoughtful about the resources at my disposal than my peers were. While some took the SAT prep course without batting an eyelash, I had to think more deeply about when to take it so that I reaped the most benefit, how my family and I were going to pay for it, and how to make sure that I extracted every bit of value that I could from it. While some applied freely to colleges, I had to think about proximity to home in case my family needed me, the return on investment I could expect, and how I could present myself in the best light given the competing dynamics of helping out at home and doing reputable internships in high school. It's easy to note these differences and feel envy, but I did my best to turn it into motivation. I focused on, leveraged, and deeply appreciated the support my family could provide while I found what I was lacking elsewhere. That thoughtfulness made me a creative problem-solver — a scrappy strategist.

Diogo Parreira, Class of 2024

Being a first-generation student is to continuously discover a world you did not know existed. It requires curiosity and resilience to navigate the unknown options and contexts and often an extra effort to belong.

On that discovery journey, you are anchored to strong values, and know how to cherish the little things.

The joy that comes with progression and achievement counterbalances an immense pressure to give back. You look after those who, like you, face the same starting point. You never forget where you come from and try to build bridges with the new world you are now in.

Looking at that journey, you nurture the conviction that change is possible and want to contribute to something bigger than yourself. This is perhaps the most beautiful part, as it pushes you and the world forward.

Vi Mai, Class of 2023

My family came from a land far away
And they worked hard each and every day,
They sacrificed, so that I could be
Where I am today, to live and to see.

As a first-gen, low-income student, I walk
A unique path, a different talk,
The weight of responsibility on my back
Makes my journey an uphill track.

My identity shapes my perspective, my drive
Pushing me to achieve, to thrive
To break barriers, to transcend
And leave my mark in this world until the end.

My parents' dreams live on in me
To create a life where we all can see
Success, prosperity, and equity
For those who come after, and those before me.

Lanita Patton, Class of 2023

It means being the first in my family to take this path and being scrappy enough to figure out how to navigate it. It means being proud of where I come from and appreciating the sacrifices that my mother made for me. I think about the responsibility I have to build a legacy for my family and open new doors to rooms that historically have not been accessible. I think about the opportunities that I can create for future young professionals and students from my community. It means that I can bring a different lived experience into the discussion to acknowledge the impacts that certain decisions and solutions have on FGLI communities. It means being able to use my story to encourage and empower others who don’t think that they belong or fit in. Who really wants to fit in? It is so much more spectacular to stand out.

Maren Quezada, Class of 2023

To me, FGLI means scrappiness and resilience. It is the fight to achieve my goals not only to pursue personal success but to honor those who enabled me to get where I am, and to help pave the way for those who come after.

I come from a small village in the highlands of Peru, and I moved to the US at the age of 18. Starting a new life from scratch in a country where I didn’t speak the language or know anyone was challenging. Luckily, with the guidance of non-profit organizations, I was able to navigate my way to college and self-fund my education.

I would not be at HBS if it were not for the support of mentors and allies who pushed me and motivated me. Being a first-generation and low-income student means finding my sources of power on what once were adversities.

Nashae Roundtree, Class of 2023

Growing up, I always sought to hide my socioeconomic background. Now, I scream it from the mountaintops to let others know that they belong just as much as anyone else. One of my greatest memories is watching the pride and excitement of my family as I walked across the graduation stage during my undergraduate ceremony in 2017. Filled with resilience and strength from my family’s hard work and prayers that led me to that point, I joyfully wept having been the first in my family to experience that moment while my younger cousins would now know higher education as their norm. Being FGLI is an ongoing experience of grit and perseverance towards being the change in my family, community, and this world.

David Velasquez, Class of 2023

To me, being a first-generation, low-income student means being inspired by my parents who relentlessly fought for a better life when we were homeless. It means becoming empowered with the skills and tools needed to affect systemic change. And it means proudly representing a community whose voice is often unheard within higher education and its affiliated spaces, consistently feeling gratitude for the support and sacrifices of my community and maintaining hope that one day the leaders of our institutions—from corporations to governments—will embody the lived experiences of all Americans. And of course, it means never giving up.